Monday, February 22, 2010

Grievances make great assets

Grievances make great "assets". A grievance is something you deem to be a wrong done to you and which you still feel as an emotional burden. There may be continuing real burdens from this wrong, but the essence of a grievance is that you feel it as a wrong. That the emotional burden of it weighs on you.

Grievances make great "assets" because, if you are determined to keep a grievance, no one can force you to give it up. A grievance is yours, something to keep polished and vibrant in a bright memory of the past where you are the wronged party and so forever in the right. For the past cannot be changed: only how you think about it can change, and only if you choose to do so.

But if you act as if your grievances are among your most precious assets, then there is very little anyone else can do. They cannot take your grievance from you, unless you choose to give it up.

And the more precious a grievance is to you, the more frightening it is to give up. For then you have to move out of the endless loop of the remembered past where you are forever in the right. You enter a realm of uncertainty and responsibility. You might even have to deal with that past not being quite as you remembered it.

In some ways, it is even better if the grievance has continuing effects. Because, then any steps to deal with them can add to the sense of monstrous unfairness. You can remain inside your pain, endless consoled by how in the right you are and how in the wrong they are.

Then the question arises, how much of your pain is from what they did and how much is from the burden of grievance you have laid on yourself? That can be a frightening question: not least how much you have made those who did you wrong the captains of your soul.

For there can be great pride in grievance: the pride of being forever in the right, forever being the wronged party. To lay aside the grievance is to lay aside that pride. But is not to make someone who wronged you so the captain of your soul an act of false and destructive pride? The pride of delusion: not the respect of, and from, truth.

Yes, a grievance can be a great “asset”: something that is yours, yours forever, that no one can take from you. But assets are also burdens, and what can be a greater burden than to make those who have wronged you the captains of your soul?

ADDENDA A nice post on the frailties of human memory (via).


  1. Excellent analysis.

    Somehow or other, I bootstrapped myself out of a ton of negative thinking about 10 or 15 years back, and the meme "stop spending so much time working to make myself miserable [ via maintaining grievances, etc. ]" was a key discovery.

  2. Thank you. I will admit that there is a certain amount of self-diagnosis going on ...